We’re very fortunate to have the SB Nation network of team sites to work with during game weeks. However, we didn’t link up with Alligator Army, SBNation’s blog for the Florida Gators. So this week I’m having fun talking to myself with a fake Gator blog I made up, in between unhealthy episodes of gluttony. I’ll ask the questions here, and also answer them how I think a reasonable Gator fan would answer them. If such a thing exists. It doesn’t. We chatted about the dumpster fire that is Florida’s program right now.
TN: So, the rivalry is renewed tomorrow after not playing last season. UF won 11 games in 2019, but just 8 wins last year as Gator defender Marco Wilson threw the shoe heard ‘round the world. UF has since collapsed and this season they’re 5-6 and head coach Dan Mullen got sacked. What happened?
The Meth Lab of the South: The truth is Dan Mullen built a house of cards largely upon the backs of surprise talent Kyle Trask and receivers Kyle Pitts and Kadarius Toney. While he’s a very good coach that does a great job of utilizing a player’s strengths, he didn’t really have the interest or effort in recruiting that needed to be there for a national title run. Consequently, they were badly out-recruited by Alabama and Georgia, which effectively shut the door on any chance of Mullen matching the expectations of the program.
Over his first 35 games Mullen was 29-6. But over their last 14 games they’ve gone just 5-9, including losses to South Carolina, Kentucky, and now Missouri. it’s one thing to lock yourself out of being a contender, but it’s another to lead a program into a death spiral, and Mullen made it clear he isn’t the guy to save them. Not unlike FSU’s divorce from Jimbo Fisher.
TN: But it’s just one bad year after three really good seasons. Do you think Mullen cost himself this job in how he handled himself this year, especially after open flirting with the NFL last off-season? If he wasn’t spending most of the season trying to get fired, he sure made it look like he was.
MLotS: This is kind of a leading question, but yes. He fired his defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and offensive line coach John Hevesy. That was supposed to secure Mullen another season. But you can’t lose to Mizzou, and that cost him his job. His comments refusing to answer questions about recruiting during the season were turned into internet jokes, but he was just trying to redirect the questions back to the game.
TN: Are you happy or upset that Mullen got fired?
MLotS: Of course it’s upsetting that a coach could not realize his full potential. He made Florida relevant again, at least for a time. Gator Nation feels more sad than anything else. We wish it could have worked out.
TN: But he’s kind of a doofus. Maybe he did realize his full potential?
TN: Come on. He’s such a dork his khaki's pleated themselves. Anyhoo, Florida has now hopped on the coaching carousel. Where does it stop? Billy Napier? Lane Kiffin? Big Game Bob already announced he was staying in retirement. Luke Fickell decided to stay at Cincinnati and James Franklin is staying at Penn State. The pool is getting awfully small. Have you considered Manny Diaz? He seems like a nice guy.
MLotS: If LSU doesn’t snag Napier, he could be the one. Napier was a solid assistant at Clemson and Alabama.
TN: And yet Dabo Swinney didn’t promote him, nor did Nick Saban. And if LSU, the in-state team doesn’t want him, shouldn’t that say something? The quality of his hire might depend on the quality of the assistants he’s able to lure to Gainesville. Which...it’s Gainesville. So....
MLotS: Your point? Napier was an assistant at Florida State, don’t you remember?
TN: Of course I remember, and it was for like a month during the offseason. That barely counts. And it’s not like Tom Petty is still around. Just sayin’. Gainesville sucks. May he rest in peace.
MLotS: Napier has won 31 games at Louisiana over the last three seasons.
TN: And FSU has won five of their last seven games and the program is clearly trending up regardless of Saturday’s result. Meanwhile, Florida has had 10 head coaches over the last 20 seasons (including interim coaches). Just in the last 10 seasons in the post-Urban Meyer era UF has hired and fired three head coaches: Will Muschamp, Jim McElwain, and Dan Mullen. UF doesn’t have a reputation for being an impossible place to win due to unrealistic expectations, but perhaps it should? Maybe that’s why even “high-floor” coaches don’t want to come to Gainesville?
MLotS: I...uhh...your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!
TN: Yeah, I thought so. Finally, let’s address the game itself. Florida’s offensive line has regressed quite a bit from not just in recent seasons but since early this season too, while Florida State’s resurgent defensive line has been excellent. Can UF block FSU up front?
MLotS: They couldn’t push around Mizzou’s defensive line so probably not. However, Florida’s defense has also been pretty good this year at times and I doubt FSU’s offensive line will be able to block them either. UF will be one of the better fronts FSU has faced.
TN: Emory Jones appears to be injured and Anthony Richardson will start in his place. Tell us about Richardson and how that might affect UF’s offense.
MLotS: I’m gonna be honest, I haven’t watched a whole lot of Gator games this season as they’ve often been scheduled at the same time as FSU games and I write for Tomahawk Nation covering games. I think Richardson is more of a running threat than a passing threat, and while he provided the Gators with a similar spark a la the Trask/Franks situation, I think Richardson is probably not the player he appears to be. UF is certainly not the same team that almost upset Alabama, who we’ve since discovered is not quite as good as they originally seemed to be. What I’m trying to say is that I have no idea, but also UF sucks.
TN: No argument here. Alright, let’s wrap this up. A bowl game and bragging rights on the line. UF was a 2pt favorite, last I checked. Who wins? Give us a score prediction.
MLotS: I’m not sure how but I think UF finds a way to win. It’s a rivalry game and weird things happen. I’ll take the Gators by 3, 20-17.
TN: Well you’re me and I think you’re wrong. I’m actually taking FSU 26-20 with the final score looking closer than it really was. FSU goes bowling and UF wonders if it can give the next coach five seasons to turn it around.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Thank you for reading. Be safe and enjoy your holiday. Don’t forget to wake up from your food comas to check out FSU vs. UF tomorrow at noon.